Desmostachya bipinnata (halfa grass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf
Preferred Common Name
- halfa grass
Other Scientific Names
- Briza bipinnata L.
- Desmostachya cynosuroides (Retz.) Stapf ex Mussery
- Eragrostis bipinnata (L.) K. Schum.
- Eragrostis cynosuroides (Retz.) Beauv.
- Leptochloa bipinnata (L.) Hochst
- Poa cynosuroides Retz.
- Stapfiola bipinnata (L.) O. Ktze.
- Uniola bipinnata L.
Local Common Names
- India: daab; dhab; durva; kusa; kush; kusha
- DETBI (Desmostachya bipinnata)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Desmostachya
- Species: Desmostachya bipinnata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
Bhanwara (1986) described the female fertile spikelets as 4-6 mm long, adaxial, compressed laterally, with 6-16 female-fertile florets. Lemmas deltoid, papery and leathery entire, pointed, awnless, hairless, glabrous carinate, 3 nerved. Palea present, relatively long, apically notched and 2 nerved. Lodicules present 2, free, fleshy and glabrous. Stamens are three, which split longitudinally. Anthers are non-penicillate, ovary glabrous and stigmas two. The fruit is free from lemma and pallea, ellipsoid, compressed dorso-ventrally. Hilum is short, pericarp fused, and embryo large, not waisted. Seeds are obliquely ovoid, laterally compressed, 0.5-0.6 mm long. Ovules remain shriveled in the basal five or six florets, whereas terminal florets contain younger stages of ovules and stamens.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 21 Jul 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Himachal Pradesh||Present||Native||Original citation: Das et al., 1993|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Native|
|-Rajasthan||Present||Native||Original citation: Bhandari, 1978|
|Yemen||Present||Native||Original citation: Al Kouthayri & Hassan, 1998|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number is 2n=20 (Mehra et al., 1968; Christopher and Abraham, 1974).
Physiology and Phenology
Flowering and fruiting occurs from May to July, maturing from August to October. On moderately alkaline calcareous soils, the monsoon rains trigger active growth of D. bipinnata in June and plant biomass attains a peak during the rainy season in September (Gupta and Singh, 1982; Sinha et al., 1991). The leaves senesce with the onset of dry weather during winter months from November to February followed by a spurt of growth in summer months due to regeneration of shoots from the perennial rhizomes (Gupta and Singh, 1982). Annual net primary productivity was found to be 1080-2453 g/m² (Gupta and Singh, 1982; Sinha et al., 1991). Being a deep-rooted grass, 52-55% of the root biomass remains concentrated in the top 10 cm of the soil, whereas the rhizomes and roots penetrate deeper than 1.5 m (Gupta and Singh, 1982).
D. bipinnata exhibits a C4 photosynthetic pathway (Aronson, 1989; Malik et al., 1991; Watson and Dallwitz, 1992), as are more grass species found in the moderately temperate and moist Himalayan region near Palampur, India (Das and Vats, 1993). On the basis of acetylene reduction assay and 15N natural abundance, associative nitrogen fixation has been reported in D. bipinnata growing in saline and sodic soils in Lahore, Pakistan (Malik et al., 1991). The occurrence of D. bipinnata has been positively correlated with increased ion exchangeable, notably with increased sodium, chlorine, calcium and magnesium ion content. On sodic soil, the soil alkalinity was found to have little adverse effect on the roots of the D. bipinnata (Joshi et al., 1985). It is considered to have a salt tolerance up to 5.6 dS/m (Aronson, 1989), though seed germination decreased in response to increasing salinity levels from 3-40 dS/m (Mahmood et al., 1996). The presence of polyphenol oxidase activity in alkali soil halophytes including D. bipinnata indicated its significance in the salt resistance of plants (Sharma et al., 1983).
In north Indian populations of D. bipinnata, there are abortive embryo sacs due to female gametophyte degeneration, possibly due to self-incompatibility caused by the failure of the pollen tube to reach the embryo sac (Bhanwara, 1986). This study signifies the importance of understanding further the reproductive biology of D. bipinnata in relation to its widespread occurrence in India, Africa and South-East Asia.
It is widely distributed in arid and semi-arid regions of India having an annual rainfall of 250-750 mm (Dabadghao and Sharkarnarayan, 1973). It is, however, very drought tolerant and known to survive where annual rainfall may be as low as 54 mm, and will also be found in higher rainfall zones, above 1000 mm. It is very tolerant of saline soils (Khan et al., 1989; Mahmood et al., 1994), alkaline and calcareous soils (Gupta and Singh, 1982; Gupta et al., 1990; Sinha et al., 1991) and highly sodic soils (Singh, 1994; Kaur et al., 2002a,b). On alluvial saline soils with restricted water penetration, D. bipinnata constitutes the dominant weed, which occurs in dense patches (Mahmood et al., 1994).
In the Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pardesh, India, D. bipinnata occurs commonly as undergrowth in dry deciduous sal (Shorea robusta) forest as well as in mesophyllous grasslands along with other perennial grasses such as Themeda aurndinacea, Saccharum spontaneum, S. bengalensis, Vetiveria zizanioides, Dichanthium annulatum and Echinochloa spp. In degraded forest land in the Siwalik Hills between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, India, it grows along with Eulaliopsis binata, Arundinella setosa, Phragmites karka, Hetero pogon contortus and Cenchrus ciliaris (Gupta et al., 1996). D. bipinnata has been reported as undergrowth in mixed plantations of Dalbergia sissoo, Acacia nilotica and Eucalyptus camadulensis in Lal Suhanra National Park, Bahawalpur, Pakistan (Hameed et al., 2002).
It is an important constituent of the Banni grasslands of the Kutch district of Gujarat, India (Sastry et al., 2003), where it occurs in five main associations, Desmostachya/Cenchrus, Desmostachya/Eragrostis, Desmostachya/Heylandia, Sporobolus, and Isleima/Dichanthium (Pandya and Sidha, 1987). D. bipinnata occurs as the most prominent constituent of the grassland sites at Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India (Gupta, 1987). In grassy savannas of Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India, D. bipinnata grows along with Prosopis cineraria, Acacia nilotica, Capparis sepieria, Vetiveria zizanioides and Cynodon dactylon. D. bipinnata has been reported to grow in saline tracts of Delhi, India and grows in association with Sporobolus marginatus and Alhagi maurorum (Maheshwari, 1963).
On the young alluvial soils along river courses subjected to erosion and deposition of soil, D. bipinnata and Phragmites species grow along with Saccharum benghalense, S. spontaneum (Gupta and Saxena, 1972). In the swampy areas of sunderbans, tallgrass patches of Imperata cylindrica, Phragmites karka and Saccharum spontaneum are associated with low forests and tall grasses such as D. bipinnata, Saccharum arundinaceum and Vetiveria zizanioides (Dabadghoa and Shankarnaryan, 1973; Singh and Gupta, 1992). It occurs as a dominant halophyte in saline areas of Peshawar district of Pakistan where it occurs with Sueda fructicosa, Juncellus laevigatus, Saccharum spontaneum and Cynodon dactylon (Sarir et al., 1986). D. bipinnata is often found associated with other serious perennial weeds such as Avena fatua, Cynodon doctylon and Cyperus rotundus in parts of its native range (Al Kouthayri and Hassan, 1998).
Termites are an important group of soil fauna affecting decomposition rates of litter and roots (Gupta et al., 1981). On the decomposition leaf litter of D. bipinnata (kept on the soil surface and buried at 5 cm depth), the predominant species of fungi were Acrophialophora fusispora, Aspergillus spp, Curvurtlaria spp, Penicillium spp. and Pericornia minuisima (Aneja and Mehotra, 1979, 1980). In D. bipinnata grasslands on moderate to highly alkaline soils, the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhization of roots varied from 14 to 72%, the spore count averaged 507 to 372 spores per 100 g of soil, and belonged to species of Acaulospora, Entrophospora, Endogone, Glomus, Gigaspora and Sclerocystis (Neeraj, 2001; Neeraj et al., 2003). The diazotrophs isolated from the roots of D. bipinnata included Citrobacter freundi and Enterobacter agglomerans (Malik et al., 1991).
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||4||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||54||1016||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Propagation is mainly vegetative from the underground rhizomes. Short-distance dispersal occurs due to wind, whereas long-distance dispersal is mainly achieved by water. The broken rhizome fragments spread along waterways, as D. bipinnata commonly grows along riverbanks, streams and channels. Under dry conditions, high winds may blow the aerial parts as a 'tumble weed', scattering seed and vegetative fragments along the way.
The roots cut by cultivation equipment form small pieces which can produce plants in new locations.
The contamination of seed crops with D. bipinnata seed could be responsible for long-distance distribution to different countries and continents.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
In West Africa, Vetveria zizanioides is used as a border to prevent the spread of D. bipinnata into gardens and cultivated fields (World Bank, 1990).
In orchards in Israel, mechanical cultivation after 3-4 weeks has been found to be effective for controlling D. bipinnata (Oren, 1988). Mechanical methods are preferred for controlling D. bipinnata in cotton fields and by manual weeding in fruit orchards in India.
Applications of herbicides control D. bipinnata on the bunds of rice fields. In orchards in northern India, perennial grasses such as Imperata cylindrica, D. bipinnata and Saccharum munja have been controlled effectively by application of dalapon + paraquat (Joolka et al., 1991). On non-cultivated land, an application of imazarpyr during winter effectively controlled D. bipinnata during the following summer (Anon., 1985). In vineyards, citrus and other fruit orchards, glufosinate controlled many invasive weeds including D. bipinnata (Bhat, 1985).
ReferencesTop of page
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Distribution MapsTop of page
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